Well, things have been going pretty well since we got back from Hong Kong. I've been teaching my freshman oral English classes, which have gone much better than I originally thought. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I'd be teaching, but here I am! My students are really great, most of them are very enthusiastic and seem to like me as their teacher. During the first week of class, I did an activity where students introduced themselves in English by finishing a series of sentences which I wrote on the board. Things like "My name is _____." "I am from _____." "I am frightened of _____." "If I had 1,000,000 yuan, I would _____." Most students gave pretty standard responses, saying that they were frightened of snakes and dogs, but some were quite thoughtful and said that they were afraid of things like being alone and having no friends. Many of them also said that they had never met a foreigner before, so I was the first foreigner they had ever come in contact with. Also, most of the students are from Guangdong province, and have never left this area of China, so for many of them, it is their dream to travel the world and see other places. I also told them quite a bit about myself and where I'm from. For instance, I shared how cold it is and how much snow we get in Wisconsin, and they were all absolutely shocked! Like I said, most of them have never left Guangdong, which is subtropical, and they simply cannot imagine living in a colder climate. For the most part, the students are very shy and quiet, so getting them to speak up and talk is a little challenging sometimes, but it's not too bad.
For my second class, I had the students do a role play activity where we read a short incomplete story about an artist and his friend named John. The two are old friends, and in the past the artist had sold a painting of a girl in a green dress to John. Years later, now that the artist is very famous, he tells John that this painting is his best work, and he would like to have it back. John knows that the painting is now very valuable and isn't sure what to do. So, I had the students break up into groups and finish the story. For the most part, they did really well. Some of them were more creative, such as one group who decided that the artist and John should get into a huge fight where John ends up being stabbed to death by the artist and three months later returns to the home of the artist as a zombie! Loved that one! There was one kind of awkward moment, however, when we got the last group in one particular class, and I found out that they weren't finished with their skit. They were so embarrassed that they didn't even want to come up to the front and perform what they had. At first, I wasn't sure what to do, but then I told them to just come up to the front of the classroom anyway (with a lot of coaxing) and I would perform an improvised skit with them. We made up a story about the girl in the painting being John's wife, and the artist was in love with John's wife, so he wanted the painting back and the two get into a big fight and the police are called to break it up. Very dramatic, and very improv! But, it worked, and I got them to speak a little, so it was a success!
Collin and I are getting used to living here, and things don't seem quite as foreign as they did when we first arrived. Last night, we went downtown and bought a stereo, so now we can listen to music on something other than Collin's tiny computer speakers. This week, we're having a couple of dinner parties at our place and inviting a few people we've met from campus. Should be a good time. Today, we went to the grocery store to get all the food to make dinner this week. It never fails, every time we go shopping and get to the check out, a group of people gathers around us and watches us as we communicate with the cashier and bag our purchases. This time was no different, and after you've spent 3 hours in the store trying to maneuver around and find what you need when everything is written in Chinese, the last thing you want is an audience watching your every move at the checkouts. Most of the time, Collin and I try to let it go, but today we just couldn't deal with it. There were about 5 Chinese men standing around us, laughing and chattering away. I actually looked at one of them right in the eye and said in English "Hi! Can I help you??!!" I'm sure they had no idea what I was saying, but I just couldn't help myself. I know Shaoguan isn't exactly a tourist destination, and the people who live here may have never seen a foreigner before, but GEEZ! It's amazing how interested they are in us. Here, it isn't considered rude to stare, and they definitely aren't shy about it. Needless to say, Collin and I were ready to get the heck out of there as quickly as possible.
This evening, after we got back from the store, Collin was trying to use the new blender we just bought to blend some tomatoes to make a pasta sauce, and of course, the blender broke. Shortly after that, we somehow blew a fuse and our power went out. It took me awhile to find the circuit breaker and switch it back on, but I figured it out! If an American electrician came here and saw the wiring in these buildings, they'd probably have a heart attack. In China, it's not uncommon for many buildings to have external wiring (outside the walls), and there are just wires everywhere. No wonder we blew a fuse!
Other than that, things are ok. I do like living here, but this experience has given me an extra appreciation for my life back home. I think many Americans forget how blessed they really are, and how lucky we are to live in a country that, for the most part, is very clean and accommodating. Our lives are never perfect, and some are less fortunate than others, but if you could see how people live here and the way things are, you'd definitely feel differently about your own life. No question about it.